Euthanasia Essay, Research Paper
Many people confronted with a terminal illness are confused about what they can do as a dying person. This is when euthanasia is often discussed. Deciding that this is the only option is a long drawn out process. Being that a large part of American society is of Christian beliefs, it is necessary to look at morality based on religion. The main pro-suicide argument deals completely within the issue of choice. If life is seen as a covenant, or temporary loan from God, the freedom to choose how that loan is repaid should lie directly within the person contemplating euthanasia. Since life is not a gift of choice, is it just to, under Christian morality, be able to choose the details and time of his or her death? ( Rauscher 13 )
Catholic views that God is the Creator, and therefore master of our fate. Hence, if to live a life of agony and pain is your fate as deamed by God, the so a person should live his or her life as it comes and accept it. We have the use of our body while we are earthly soles, but we don’t have absolute use of which choosing to end our lives falls. Suffering through life instills humility in man, since he sees that only God can comfort him in his time of suffering. Accepting suffering purifies man, since man relinquishes himself to the will of God.( Trubo 90 )
Trubo makes reference to one, A. T. Welford, who at the time was professor of psychology at the University of the Adelaide in Australia.
Welford stated that an amount of suffering is necessary to bringing out good in any individual. He uses the example that sheltering a child from all worry, pain, and disappointment stunts a child’s mental and emotional development. ( 93 )
If one comes from a religiously strong background, they will find that euthanasia is to always be condemned as well as prohibited. However, if euthanasia seems to be the only choice, a person may find him or herself discarding the religous beliefs that have guided thier lives.
The key to having family be a part of a person’s decision to euthanize, is to keep from waiting untill it is too late. As Humphry cites, a person needs to approach discussion while they’re still healthy. Another key is to make sure that the person doesn’t just surprise thier family by telling them that the person has already made the decision to euthanize. A person contemplating euthanasia should subtly make references to thier opinion of euthanasia. It is important to take the feedback of how a person’s family reacts to the news of the person’s intentions; as well, it is important to not
let family make a person’s decisions for them.
As Maguire, on the laws pertaining to suicide and euthanasia, said: Most jurisdictions have what is known as as the “year-and-a-day rule for punishing homicides. This means that death must ensure within a year and a day from the infliction of the mortal
wound or it is concluded that death was due to other causes and the assailant escapes charges. With a respirator, a victim could be kept alive for longer than a year and a day and murder
charges would fail. ( 49 )
There is only one country which permits doctors to help patients die
legally by request. This country is the Netherlands, also known as Sweden.
Helping another person die is against the law in America. Unlike common
belief, suicide and attempted suicide are not crimes. Supplying the means
of helping someone die, such as drugs, is more than likely a crime, although
it has never actually been tried in a court of law. The actual criminal liability
falls from the actual touching of the person whom euthanasia is has been
chosen. ( Humphry 32 )
Trubo cites the double-edged sword of legally classifying euthanasia:
The Medical Society of New York State, for example, has already
declared that “every human being of adult years and sound
mind” has the right to determine what shall be done with his own
“body” after death. But there is no clear definition of when a person becomes a “body”. ( 28 )
Resulting from dispute by medical authorities, a new definition centered around the brain was conceived. The determination of the end of
life should be derived from the cessation of the brain’s electrical activity. This could possibly end the number of cases of people spending weeks,
months, and even years lying in suspended animation.
Hospice care involves the care of the dying person, but not the
treatment of the illness which has brought him or her to the end of his or her life. People who don’t want to deal with the constant pain that they live
with, can choose euthanasia over hospice care. However, people that have
strong religious beliefs, and/or thier religion won’t permit euthanasia, usually
choose hospice care. To choose hospice care, the person must be sure that
they are dying and that no new treatments exist that could cure or heal his
or her illness.
When a person chooses euthanasia over hospice care, there are many
exponential factors involving the actual assisting in suicide. To begin with, a
person has to choose a doctor that will support his or her decision, and will
carry out his or her wishes as the time of death approaches. Finding
doctors who have taken the time to think about euthanasia and have a clear
opinion on the matter isn’t easy, and can be rather frustrating. A person
must judge the doctors standing on the issue from the answers the doctor
gives regarding his or her situation. Any hesitation when aswering these
questions will more than likely rule that certain doctor out. When choosing a doctor, there are two documents the dying person should have present upon meeting with a doctor. The first is a Living Will, which gives
permission to pull the plug on a life support machine. The second is a Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care. Like it’s name would suggest,
the second document is more likely to stand up in court. However, it too deals only with passive euthanasia. ( Humphry 20-24 )
The choice between passive euthanasia, or pulling the plug on a life support machine, and active euthanasia, also commonly know as assisted suicide, is usually the easiest decision a dying person has to make. If a person is living by means of repirator or other life support, passive euthanasia is the only option. If a person has no life support for which to unplug, then active euthanasia and hospice care are the only options. ( Trubo 11-12 )
As far as active euthanasia goes, there are many possible methods. Anything from hanging to shooting oneself ar considered active euthanasia, but are never recommended. There are numerous drugs available, but only doctors have access to these lethal narcotics. Unlike societies has been led to believe, cyanide is not a drug of choice when considering euthanasia.
Many television programs, as well as wars, have led society to believe that cyanide is a reasonable way to end a person’s life. Actually it is known to lead to a very violent as well as painstaking death. The real drugs of choice are barbituates such as Seconal and Nembutal. Other choice drugs are non-barbituates like Valium and Darvon. The barbituates almost always produce death by very non-violent means. The non-barbituates may not always work, and a plastic bag should be kept ready for backup. Drinking alcohol with any of these drugs will accelerate death by fifty-percent, since alcohol speeds up absorbtion of the drugs into the blood by way of the small intestine. Therefore the less food in the stomach, the faster the absorbtion. However, if nothing at all is eaten prior to ingestion of the drugs, the result is terrible nausea and the vomiting of the drugs before absorbtion into the small intestine. ( Humphry 41, 111 )
Choosing the time to die is most often the hardest decision to make, since it offers the last chance to turn back and decide that even a miserable existence is better than none. The two main issues that revolve around choosing the right time to die are not being sure that death is very close, and the sharing of the decision of when with a loved one. If a person thinks that death is near, but aren’t sure, a physician should be contacted. Then the person should talk with the doctor about the progression of his or her illness, and find out if there are any new treatments available to try before he or she makes his or her final decision. ( Trubo 103, 104 )
When deciding who will be present for an active euthanization, the law is something to keep in mind. A person wouldn’t want tell anyone outside of
the immediate family anything of the euthanization. If someone did find out, any loved ones that would be present could possibly charged with assisting in the death of his or her dying loved one. However, usually only two or three close family members are ever present.
KEVORKIAN TO FACE CHARGES Time Magazine Online
A Michigan judge has ruled that Jack Kevorkian must stand trial for assisting two suicides in 1991. Kevorkian faces up to five years in prison and a $10,000 fine in the deaths of Marjorie Wantz and Sherry Miller. Miller, 48, who had multiple sclerosis, died after inhaling carbon monoxide through a mask. Wantz, who suffered from chronic pelvic pain, died after using a Kevorkian device that injected lethal drugs into her system. The trial is scheduled to begin April 1. Kevorkian was already scheduled to stand trial beginning February 12 for assisting two other suicides in Michigan.
CURTAINS FOR DR.DEATH Time Magazine Online
Post Mortem: People
Early this summer, Christy Nichols and her mother, Rebecca Lou Badger, shared their lastmoment together in a Michigan motel room. It had been eight years since Badger, 39, wasdiagnosed with multiple sclerosis, a degenerative disease of the nervous system, and she had become increasingly depressed and debilitated. She could no longer walk, was subject to seizures and got through theday only with the help of three prescription painkillers. Ahead, she could see nothing but agony,and finally she sought the only foolproof escape. On July 8 she left her daughter’s home in Southern California, flew with Nichols to Detroit, and checked into the suburban Concord Inn. “Pain excruciating,” she wrote that day in a farewell note to friends and family. “Can’t walk. Excrement all over myself.” There, the next evening, Badger died from a lethal injection supervised by Dr. Jack Kevorkian, 68, the apostle of euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide.
Though Rebecca Badger may have found peace, she left behind an angry debate. For an autopsy by Oakland County Chief Medical Examiner Dr. L.J. Dragovic revealed no trace of MS–which is often misdiagnosed because it can be difficult to confirm. In fact, Dragovic claims that despite her symptoms, Badger wasn’t even sick. “Her lungs were fine, her liver was fine, her kidneys were fine,” he says. “Her central nervous system did not show any evidence of disease. And that includes the brain . . . and the spinal cord.”
Now Christy Nichols, 22, is left wondering whether her mother’s death was all a tragic mistake. “What if she had something curable?” asks Nichols, a senior majoring in criminology at the University of California at Santa Barbara. “She could be leading a normal life.”
To date, no charges have been filed in the Badger case. But her death, plus that of Judith Curren, 42, a nurse from Pembroke, Mass., on Aug. 15, has led critics to question how thoroughly Kevorkian screens would-be clients. Curren, bedridden with chronic fatigue syndrome and a muscle disorder known as fybromyalgia–neither of which are necessarily incurable–had a history of depression, as did Badger.
Therein lies the quandary, even for those who endorse euthanasia as a last resort. To qualify must one be terminally ill? Or is it enough to suffer with no hope? Finally, who is to judge?
Since Kevorkian’s first suicide assist in 1990, he has been put on trial three times and has been acquitted three times. He has not lost his passion for battle. He has vowed that even an adverse stand on assisted suicide by the highest court in the land–which has three such cases, including one of Kevorkian’s, pending before it–won’t stop him. “I don’t care what any supreme court says. I don’t care what any legislature does,” he angrily told the National Press Club in Washington on July 29. “I know what’s right, and I’m going to do what’s right.” Prior to Badger, he had participated in the deaths of 32 clients in six years. Since then, he has orchestrated a half-dozen deaths–that of Curren, plus three other women and two men–raising his “assist” total to 39.
Rebecca Badger–No. 33–was no stranger to suffering. At 16, she became pregnant with Christy by Steven Nichols, a welder. The couple married, had a second daughter, Misty, and divorced after two years. Drinking heav-ily, Badger went to Alcoholics Anonymous in 1982. During this time her children lived in foster homes, with their father, and with their paternal grandparents. It took two years, but Badger sobered up. Says her friend Cecelia Moody, a bartender whom Badger sponsored in AA: “In my times of trouble, she’d read the Bible to me.” Even-tually, Badger reclaimed her girls and took a job as a medical technician in Berkeley.
Badger’s medical odyssey began in 1978 with an appendectomy and an abdominal hysterectomy. In 1985 she was diagnosed with cancer of the cervix. After successful surgery, she received more bad news: In 1988, her physician Dr. Johanna Meyer-Mitchell detected what she thought might be signs of MS. In retrospect, Meyer-Mitchell now believes Badger suffered from Munchausen’s syndrome, in which otherwise healthy people, craving attention, complain of pretended or self-induced symptoms. “Looking backward and looking at the autopsy,” she says, “this woman died of a psychiatric disease.”
At the time, Meyer-Mitchell referred Badger to Dr. Michael Stein, a Walnut Creek, Calif., neurologist, who ulti-mately diagnosed “probable” MS. “She complained of difficulty walking, incontinence, pain, numbness and tingling,” he says. “If this was psychosomatic, she was doing a lot to make life difficult on herself.”
Her symptoms didn’t keep Badger from marrying mortgage broker Fred Riley, now 48, in May 1993. “She was a very compelling woman, very natural, well-spoken, very bright,” says Riley. But later that year, he notes, after Badger began taking Demerol, a potent, highly addictive painkiller, for MS, she began undergoing drastic mood swings–and eventually left him. “She told me later she thought she was a burden,”he says. “It was pretty clear she wasn’t thinking clearly.” The couple divorced in 1994.
Thereafter Badger declined swiftly, losing her ability to walk. Her doctors, meanwhile, had added morphine and the sedative Valium in addition to Demerol. Last January she e-mailed Jack Kevor-kian on the Internet, then read his book Prescription Medicide–The Goodness of Planned Death. Nichols, who still calls her mother her best friend, read it too –and gave Rebecca Badger permission to die. “I was wearing a new pair of glasses,” she says. “I looked through them and saw her suffering.” Riley, however, calls his ex-wife’s turn to Kevorkian “just an elaborate cry for help to the wrong guy.”
Over the next few months, Badger spoke at length with Kevorkian and psychiatrist Dr. Georges Reding, his associate. They requested her medical records, which Dr. Meyer-Mitchell sent along to Badger, not knowing to whom they would be forwarded. (When she found out, she says, “I felt lied to and manipulated.”) But Dr. Stein, the neurologist, knew the score: In a fax to him, Reding said explicitly that Badger was “seeking physician-assisted suicide.” Astonishingly, Stein was not alarmed. “I didn’t think she’d do it or that they’d take her seriously,” he explains, adding wanly, “Maybe I should have called or interceded.”
Three weeks before Badger’s death, Cecelia Moody paid her a visit. “She couldn’t walk,” says Moody. “I put her on the floor so she could crawl. She couldn’t drag her legs to crawl. I had to carry her.”
Geoffrey Fieger, Kevorkian’s attorney, argues that Badger’s medical rec-ords were enough to convince anyone that she had MS. “If they were wrong, then take the doctors’ licenses away,” Fieger fumes. “Don’t criticize Jack. He just accepted what they said, and they said it repeatedly over the years.” But the respected UCLA neurologist Dr. Louis Rosner, coauthor of the book Multiple Sclerosis, argues that since MS is often misdiagnosed, Kevorkian should have sought more opinions. “He accepts anything [patients] bring him as medical evidence,” Rosner says, “and goes ahead with their wishes.”
After settling into the Concord Inn on July 8, Badger, a mother to the end, admonished Christy Nichols to go to law school. They also rented an Al Pacino movie, Carlito’s Way, but Badger slept through it. The next day, just after 7:30 p.m., a smiling Jack Kevorkian appeared. “I felt like there was an angel entering the room,” says Nichols. While Kevorkian and his assistant Neal Nicol–a medical supplies salesman with no license to attend patients–mixed the death potion, psychiatrist Reding interviewed Badger for half an hour and proclaimed her rational.
Finally came the denouement: Nicol plunged three needles into Badger’s right arm, through which the lethal fluid would flow. While her daughter held her hands, Badger hugged a teddy bear, and Kevorkian looked on silently. At Nicol’s cue, the patient tugged a string, releasing the deadly mixture into her veins. It was all supposed to take 20 to 40 seconds, but Badger lingered for almost eight minutes, and as her life ebbed away, she complained of a burning sensation in her arm. When Nichols showed concern, Nicol flashed some gallows humor: “Don’t worry. We’ve never saved a patient yet.”
A moment later, Badger asked her daughter for a final kiss. Within minutes she was dead. “I’m glad I don’t have to see her suffer,” Nichols says now. But she is left to wonder: Did her mother, with her daughter’s approval, do the right thing?
– RICHARD JEROME
– FANNIE WEINSTEIN in Detroit, MARC BALLON and LYNDON STAMBLER in Los Angeles, LAIRD HARRISON in Concord, Calif., and TOM DUFFY in Pembroke
Kevorkian Is Sentenced But Not Silenced–Time Magazine Online
The battle for the hearts and minds of America now begins in earnest with the appeal of his conviction
Dr. Death will no longer be making house calls. On Tuesday, Judge Jessica Cooper sentenced Dr. Jack Kevorkian to 10 to 25 years behind bars for the second-degree murder of Thomas Youk, a 52-year-old man ravaged by Lou Gehrig?s disease whom Kevorkian killed by lethal injection last September. The judge also denied bond to the 70-year-old Kevorkian while he appeals his conviction. Said Judge Cooper sternly, ?You had the audacity to go on national television, show the world what you did and dare the legal system to stop you. Well, sir, consider yourself stopped.? Clearly, says TIME Midwest correspondent Julie Grace, Judge Cooper, a liberal jurist who has grown increasingly conservative on the bench, wanted to send a message to Kevorkian: ?She wanted to let him know the buck stops here and that the state of Michigan will no longer tolerate this kind of activity.?
But don’t count the doctor out just yet. Expect Kevorkian, his legal advisers and his supporters to send a message back: Grace reports that ?almost from the minute the verdict came down last month, his advisers have been planning a grassroots letter-writing and lobbying campaign to get the conviction overturned on appeal.? Though the appeal will be argued on the law, of course, it will be enveloped with as much emotion and outpouring of support as can be mustered from Kevorkian?s very loyal backers. Will the passion lead Kevorkian to carry through on his threat to starve himself in prison to publicize his cause? ?You can expect anything from Kevorkian, but starvation now seems unlikely,? says Grace. ?He wants to make a long-term impact. That won?t happen if he dies in 30 days.?
DR. DEATH BACK IN COURT ABCNEWS.COM